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Police: Two arrested in connection with string of attacks on officers

By Emanuella Grinberg, CNN
Hemet Police Chief Richard Dana says a $200,000 reward is still up for grabs in the case.
Hemet Police Chief Richard Dana says a $200,000 reward is still up for grabs in the case.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Man arrested on allegations of making booby trap, assault with intent to murder officer
  • At least two more sought in booby trap-style attacks believed to target police
  • Suspect's comments during arrest suggest "he doesn't like us very much" police chief says
  • Seven attacks since December have targeted police in Hemet, California, authorities say
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(CNN) -- Two men have been arrested in California in connection with a string of brazen attacks in the past six months thought to be targeting law enforcement.

Nicholas Smit, 40, is being held on allegations of making a booby trap, assault with intent to murder a police officer and possession of a firearm while on bail, Hemet Police Chief Richard Dana said Saturday.

Also arrested was Steve Hansen, 36, for possession of a firearm while on parole. Authorities are investigating whether he may be involved in seven attacks believed to have targeted members of the Hemet Police Department since December. No one has been injured in the attacks.

The arrests came after police served search warrants on the men's homes in Hemet and Homeland on Friday night, Dana said. At least two more suspects are being sought, and a $200,000 reward for information in the case is up for grabs as the investigation continues, he added.

The police chief would not comment directly on a possible motive but said one of the suspects made comments during his arrest suggesting that "he doesn't like us very much," Dana said.

The arrests come less than a week after a suspected arson damaged a police evidence lab, the latest attack aimed at the department, according to authorities.

The booby trap-style attacks have drawn the attention of state and federal law enforcement agencies, which have contributed manpower to the investigation and money to the $200,000 reward.

"Clearly, an attack on one community is an attack on all communities. By the same token, an attack on a police officer puts all of the public at risk, no matter where they live," said Riverside County Sheriff Stanley Sniff Jr., whose department is participating in the investigation.

Authorities have not been able to directly connect the attacks to a particular gang or organized crime, Dana said, even though most of the attacks have targeted members of an organized crime task force.

Hemet is one of eight local, state and federal agencies that make up the Riverside County Gang Task Force, which was formed in 2006 to address the growth of criminal street gangs and outlaw motorcycle gangs.

The attacks began in December, when, police say, a natural gas line was rerouted into the task force's headquarters, risking an explosion.

On February 23, a task force member at the Hemet headquarters opened a security gate outside the building, which launched a homemade zip gun attached to the gate. The weapon fired, missing the officer's head by inches.

Subsequent incidents included four city vehicles being set ablaze in the City Hall parking lot and a suspected arson at a police shooting range.

"My personal opinion is that the same people are connected with all of them, but the investigation is not over," Dana said.